Pawsitive Training with a Clicker


One of the most interesting and revolutionary changes in dog training has been the recent popularity of what is called "Clicker Training." A clicker is a small noisemaker that produces a distinctive clicking sound. The sound is used as a secondary reinforcer in place of other signals like "Yes." Clicker Training originated with the training of marine mammals. Although the marine mammal trainers used whistles instead of a clicker, the idea is the same.

Clicker training is also known as "operant conditioning." It is just using a clicker (sound-marker) to help with pawsitive reinforcement to mark a behavior. It is very precise which allows us to mark the exact behavior that we feel is correct. The first to develop and expand the clicker technique were dolphin trainers but now all sorts of ‘un trainable’ animals are being taught to respond to the clicker even cats. It also goes without saying that cats are not the easiest trained animal.

The reason this method works so well is it is also reward based training. What animal doesn't like to work for food, or some kind love and attention. In earlier days of training animals were taught training with harsh and negative things such as, cattle prods, yanking on the lead, harsh scolding, and worst of all even hit. Animals would eventually respond but it was out of fear of being treated that way again, not because they wanted to please their Pet Parents.

I would like to explain how to use and set up or "load" the clicker. You may have also heard some people or trainers say "charge" the clicker. You can purchase a clicker at any of your local pet stores, you may also use a whistle.

First, take your pet into a designated area that you have chosen for training and just click the clicker and hand your dog a treat. Do this a few times so your dog makes the connection of the sound of the clicker (marker) and the reward pawsitive reinforcement. Make the treats small so your pet doesn't put on too much extra weight. Soft treats seem to work best. You may even use their daily dog food but that doesn't seem to work as well.

Second, if your dog already knows how to sit, or lay down, you can ask them to perform this behavior and as soon as their bottom or belly hits the floor you would click and treat. Timing is very crucial in clicker training. You want to click at the moment you pet does the correct behavior.

Third, add in a hand signal. Dog's use visual cues as well as verbal. Body language is a big part of their natural behaviors. So ask your dog to sit, if he does, add the hand signal and click, and treat. Do this about 7 times to make sure your dog understands.

"Come When Called." Any time you can call your dog by saying "spot come" and spot comes running. You will click and treat. You will be reinforcing the come every time he responds. You can catch a behavior also. If you see your pet doing a behavior you like you may also click and treat that behavior as well. If your dog wipes his eye every morning, Click and treat that behavior every morning. Eventually you can add a verbal cue and a hand signal. Before you know it your dog will have learned a new trick.

Hopefully, I have answered a few of your questions. If you have more personal questions to your specific pet, please feel free to contact me. I will get back to you with the answer.